You hear a lot about government disfunction, but it's only fair to give credit where it's due. Today, the New York City Council passed the Audible Alarms Bill, also known as Avonte's Law, securing a huge win for kids and their parents.
The Avonte Oquendo story is a mother's worst nightmare. A 14-year-old boy with developmental disabilities slips out a door on the side of a Long Island City Public School. Nobody notices until it's too late. Weeks later his body is discovered washed up on a beach. In the past year, other children have left schools unattended, including my 4-year-old son. He was found walking on Greene Avenue all by himself.
School doors that lead to the outside have security cameras. That's how we know where Avonte escaped from his school. But they don't have alarms, which would have alerted adults when it happened and would have saved his life.
Following this tragedy, concerned parents and a new champion on the City Council, Robert Cornegy, Jr. of Bedford-Stuyvesant, joined together and took action. When Councilmember Cornegy first announced his idea for Audible Alarms, I knew how important it was from personal experience, and I felt that it was my responsibility to talk to parents in my neighborhood.
I am the President of the Bed-Stuy chapter of StudentsFirstNY, so I brought the idea to our members. We went as a group to stand with Councilmember Cornegy on the steps of City Hall in support of the bill, and then met with him in his local office. We sat in the Council chamber when the bill came up for a hearing last month, and our organizer Darlene Boston even gave testimony. Whenever I saw other parents in the neighborhood, they would ask me "What's happening with Audible Alarms?"
Now, the law is passed and the Department of Education shouldn't delay installing alarms in every school within the next year. For all of us parents who trust the City of New York with our children's safety every morning, we can breathe a little more easily.
I want to thank the Councilmembers for passing this bill, and particularly Councilmember Cornegy for taking the lead. But the real credit goes to parents and organizers who saw a problem in our community and got vocal. Sometimes when you get organized and fight the good fight, you win.